Editor's note: Today's post was written by award-winning author Joe Ducie. Ducie is a long-time supporter of Worldbuilders. Check out their work before the fundraiser ends December 9, or give a Heifer gift via our catalog.
I first heard of Heifer International through author Patrick Rothfuss, in the first year—some many years ago now—he ran his Worldbuilders charity, which I believe hadn’t been so aptly named yet. I was young, barely north of twenty, and dumb, scarcely able to figure out which end of the pen to put to paper, but excited, eager, and positively drowning in motivation to build worlds of my own.
If we’re to talk about world building here, story structure, then Rothfuss was my inciting incident. I read his first book and it made me want to word and story good. He made me want to be a writer. I ask that you not hold it against him (which is a paraphrased line lifted without remorse from his work), as I commenced world building without his permission or even his blessing. Reading his work, I wanted to write stories on such a grand scale that great swaths of pine forests would be felled to keep them in print. I still do, I suppose, but these days I see the game as much more of a marathon than a sprint (and my digital sales eclipse those in print something like five-to-one, so the pine forests are safe… for now).
From the inciting incident most good stories head into a state of rising action. And it was over the coming years that I began to build my own stories, get noticed by agents and publishers, win a small award here and there, and I found myself in a position to give more. Give not just whatever dull copper I could spare to Heifer International when Worldbuilders rolled around, but also my books, my name, and, indeed, whatever the wonderful team at Worldbuilders would request. I became no less excited, no less eager, but far more serious about world building. If I’m to be honest here, in those early years I didn’t do much research beyond the word of the Worldbuilders team that Heifer International was worth the time and effort. I took them at their word, and as a writer words are important, perhaps most important, and I’m so glad I did.
Like most writers, after I’d dug myself deep into world building, I realised I needed to go back and research if any of this was to make sense. I hit that trusty and far too convenient source of information, an oasis in the desert for those of us who shoot from the hip when it comes to slinging words onto the page and just hope some of those words fly true, I visited Wikipedia, which led me through to the Heifer International homepage. There I learnt the dark, sordid truth about this organisation—in a world built on uncertainty, on a worldwide media unfortunately designed to scare and incite, to spread doom and gloom, Heifer was a certain thing. Not there to incite but for insight. I doubled down, on my time and my love, to do what I could for Worldbuilders and Heifer.
The main theme of this charity work, what I take away as the theme of the story (and not all story has a readily identifiable theme), is sustainability. The money and time and effort directed toward Worldbuilders and then on to Heifer does not just flow over the edge of a waterfall, but grows as it flows. What I most associate with Heifer is that the gift of one animal, whatever it may be, grows. The gift sustains. The first generation becomes a second, a third, and so on. Like any good story, there’s a catalyst—a force for change—and the way Heifer operates sustainably and resourcefully makes the organisation a very good story.
I guess the climax of that story for me after all the rising action (and it shows no signs of slowing down. Indeed, here is where world building in fantasy differs from reality—in fiction, there has to be an end), after the inciting incident and the catalyst. The climax was not the community of kind and good people coming together, not the interaction or even the sense of support and pride in the charity, but that through the actions of Worldbuilders and Heifer—from the hard working team right across to those giving what they can—the net amount of sustainable baby ducks and chicks in the world has increased, and that is no bad thing.